Sometimes I’m aware that I say a lot more than many people would about the stuff that I’m struggling with, as well as what I’m celebrating. I do this quite consciously and for good reasons.
On an old blog, I wrote a post about only seeing people’s ‘highlight reel’ – whether online or off. It was after a conversation with a couple of writer friends. One commented on how productive and confident I was, and how well I was doing, when they were riddled with self doubt. It was the concept that we only see the highlights of a person’s life – we don’t get to see behind the scenes.
Um, excuse me? I was full of self doubt, and there were a plenty of days where I achieved nowhere near what I wanted to achieve. If it wasn’t for my partner, and my then-new writer friends Amanda Staley and J. C. Hart with their encouragement and words of wisdom, I’d have given up. From then, I decided that I was going to share more behind-the-scenes stuff. I still think this is important – I don’t want to be seen as this person who just does things and achieves them with no problem in the world. That’s not a way to inspire people – it’s just a way to make themselves feel crappy in comparison. Last week after a school visit I got an email from the teacher affirming this:
“It is wonderful for the children to see real people talking about this and it will help them understand that it is not something ‘weird’ about them if they experience any of that – it is ok to ask for help and admit life is not always peachy and easy. Thank you so much for your openness and for providing a good platform to start a discussion.”
So reason no. 1 is just about being a real person, because real people can be real role models.
The other is about mental health. I hid it for most of my life – hid it pretty well, too – and was diagnosed a few years ago. The official diagnosis meant lots of things, one of them being I could talk about it without the perceived need to convince people it was real. Many people are still surprised though. I know I’m seen as a young, pretty, privileged, and capable woman – not the kind of person that people picture when they think of mental health problems. It’s important to me to help break that stereotype and stigma: having depression is not a weakness, and it doesn’t mean I can’t function in life. It just means I need to look after myself while giving to others. I also believe there is a positive side to depression, and anxiety, but we only focus on the negative.
So reason no. 2 is about breaking mental health stigmas, and showing that it is not a sign of weakness.
And what about celebrating achievements? Well, I am actually proud of what I do! I’m also excited when I manage to achieve something I never thought I could do, or touch someone in a way that inspires them to go on and try something new, or feel better about themselves, or just feel a little bit better about themselves. I want the world to be a happy place, and I want to hold my place in that happy world. I’m going to keep celebrating my wins because they excite me and I worked for them! I also want to see more people celebrating their successes. While there’s definitely an up-side to Tall Poppy Syndrome (I do believe we’re all of equal value), one of the drawbacks is that we tend to downplay our achievements. I want to celebrate my win of publishing a book, even though billions of people have done it before me; I want to celebrate my two sales on Etsy even though that’s a bad week for other people. It doesn’t matter how small my win is in comparison to others – it matters that it’s a win for me. And I want to help you celebrate your wins. We’ll be in a much happier world when we can recognise and celebrate our achievements without shame.
So reason no. 3 is about recognising and being proud of my work – and encouraging that in other people.
I feel sometimes like my honest, open sharing is seen in a negative light (attention-seeking or complaining about a privileged life), but I also feel that it helps more people than it annoys, and that is far more important to me. It also just feels like it’s a more real version of me on the internet, and I’m all for being real ❤
P.S. Featured image is me as a kid, because that’s about as real as it gets. Also cuteness.